On Saturday, March 18, BJP declared Yogi Adityanath as the next Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. But who is Yogi Adityanath? Why is there a controversy surrounding the election? Here’s everything you need to know about it:
Childhood and Education
Born Ajay Singh Bisht on 5 June 1972, Mahant Yogi Adityanath grew up into a Garhwali Rajput family in the village of Panchur, in the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. Ananda Singh, his father, worked as a forest ranger. Ajay Singh went on to complete his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Hemwati Nandan Bahugana Garhwal University and then left home around the 1990s to join Ayodhya Ram temple movement. It was there when he met Mahant Avaidyanath, and soon, he became his disciple. He started to be known as Yogi Adityanath.
Moving to Religion
He renounced his family at the age of 21 and was promoted as Mahant of Guru Gorakhnath temple when his teacher Mahant Avaidyanath passed away (on September 12, 2014).
Getting into politics
The relationship between the specific realm of Hindutva politics in Uttar Pradesh dates back to the time of Mahant Digvijay Nath who led the capture of the Babri masjid in Ayodhya for Hindus on December 1940. Mahant Avaidyanath, the successor of Digvijay Nath, were part of Hindu Mahasabha and were elected to the Parliament. After BJP joined the Ayodhya movement, the two parties came together for the movement. During that period, Mahant Avaidyanath joined BJP but remained autonomous in most parts. After the death of Avaidyanath, Yogi Adiyanath was elected to Lower House of Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) four years later.
When he first won it, he was the youngest member of the Parliament then. He then went on to win five consecutive terms (1998, 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014).
Qualities as a politician and Yogi
Yogi Adityanath was mostly known for his powerful oratory skills despite his hinging speeches on controversial issues and has kept communal politics alive in India. He also is in the favor of constructing Ram temple at the disputed site of Ayodhya, drove BJP’s Hindutva campaign in eastern UP in the just concluded Assembly polls in the politically crucial state when it won the three-fourths majority.
He has constantly opposed his own party. But since he holds a strong grip among the Hindu voters, BJP could not leave him out either. In 2002, he even proposed Hindu Yuva Vahini, a right-wing outfit. Hindu Yuva Vahini has aided in the impressive rise of Yogi Adityanath in politics.
He was also working to convert Christians to Hindus during 2005. During that time, 1800 Christians reportedly converted their religion to Hinduism. But the Yogi doesn’t think of it as a conversion, rather as ghar wapsi (‘reconversion’).
He has been a part of many other controversies.
Controversy: Communal Violence in Uttar Pradesh
Adityanath’s name has been linked with the communal violence in Uttar Pradesh in 2007. His speech had stirred up riots in the state. He was arrested then, but his arrested fuelled the fire in the unrest and in that part, several coaches of Mumbai-Gorakhpur Godan Express were burnt by HYV activists (allegedly).
Controversy: Comparing situation in UP to situation in Kashmir of 27 years ago
Just to give the first-hand experience, here are his exact lines:
“When I look at western UP, I have regrets… when I see the social framework and demography… On January 19, 1990, Hindus had to migrate collectively from Kashmir. A massacre took place, the honor of mothers and sisters were openly tramped upon. If we have seen a sight similar to this anywhere, it was either in Bengal or western UP. Kairana and Kandhla are examples. Is Kairana not an issue? Is Kashmir not an issue? If this country’s majority, Hindus, are tortured, is it not an issue? But if a thorn pricks the foot of someone from the minority community, it becomes an issue. This politics is strange.
I find western UP unsafe. We do not face a threat in eastern UP because there we use the language that people understand and set them straight…”
Controversy: Praising Donald Trump, the Russian law, and questioning Muslim rights
In the same rally, Adityanath claimed that Trump had praised only two leaders during his entire election campaign – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and said that what they did was right. He said, “Trump’s victory has given politics a new direction, a new flow. You must have seen the decision he has taken. He named Narendra Modi his political icon… In 2013, Putin was questioned over Muslims being given special rights. The issue was discussed in their Parliament… He stood up and said Russia cannot give anyone special rights as they are a minority. Whoever lives in Russia will abide by Russian laws and whoever doesn’t follow, should go where they like Shariat law. Can the Congress, SP, BSP, RLD try to show such courage? They cannot because they have turned this into a vote bank”.
Controversy: Sacking UP Hindu Yuva Vahini state president Sunil Singh
When Sunil Singh, then state president of Hindu Yuva Vahini, stated that HYV will contest against BJP candidates, Adityanath sacked him. He then justified by saying that he could not give up Hindutva since Hindutva and development are his major issues and that Hindus are victims in many areas as they are forced to flee from their homeland.
Controversy: Comparing Shah Rukh Khan to Hafiz Saeed
He compared Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed and started another controversy there.
He is the new chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.